How highly rated were NFL stars coming out of high school?
It’s National Signing Day — where the top high school recruits around the nation announce what college they will be attending and playing football for this coming fall.
In honor of Wednesday’s event, we take a look at some of the NFL’s most dominant players today to see how they were rated out of high school. We will use Scout.com‘s rankings and rating scale that attributes a number of stars for each recruit with five being the highest and one being the lowest.
The five-star recruits
Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs
Following a dominant high school career, Berry was regarded as the top cornerback in his class and the No. 7 overall recruit in 2007. Just about every top school was interested, but the Georgia native choose to play at Tennessee.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Jones was listed as the No. 1-overall wide-receiver prospect. He was also the No. 1 prospect in the state of Alabama and the No. 3-overall prospect in the 2008 class. He was heavily recruited, as to be expected, but he ended up staying close to home and signing with Crimson Tide.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
The 2015 All-Pro was the No. 1 running back and the No. 3-overall prospect in the 2004 class. He narrowed his choices down to USC and Oklahoma before deciding on the Sooners.
The four-star recruits
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Newton was the No. 14-overall quarterback in the 2007 class. He received scholarship offers from several big schools, including Florida, Oklahoma and Georgia, but he committed to the Gators at the beginning of his senior year.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Brady came up in the pre-Scout era when high school-player recruiting was much different than it is now. However, he was a highly sought-after quarterback prospect, and where he was rated is consistent with what would be a four-star recruit in today’s rating system, per the Maize and Blue News. He narrowed his list down to Michigan, UCLA, USC, California and Illinois before deciding on the Wolverines.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
Lynch had an excellent senior year at Oakland Tech high school, in Oakland, Calif., and he immediately drew interest from just about every big Division I school on the west coast. He was the No. 16-overall running back in the 2004 class. Lynch decided to attend California.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Before emerging as one of the elite players at his position in both college football and the NFL, Fitzgerald was a four-star recruit out of Wayne, Penn. He was also the No. 15-overall wide receiver in the 2002 class. He received scholarship offers from Ohio State and Michigan State, but eventually choose to stay local and commit to Pittsburgh.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Gronkowski was already 6-foot-6 and nearly 250 pounds coming out of high school in Pittsburgh. He was the No. 3-overall tight end in the 2007 class. He received scholarship offers from several big-name schools including Clemson, Ohio State and Louisville. He eventually decided to commit to Arizona after what he would later describe as an incredible experience during his official visit.
Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
One of the NFL’s biggest emerging stars was a four-star recruit out of high school in the 2011 class. Among the five receivers ranked ahead of him were Sammy Watkins and Jarvis Landry. Beckham choose to sign with LSU over scholarship offers from Mississippi, Mississippi State, Nebraska and several other smaller schools.
Von Miller, Denver Broncos
After playing his high school football in DeSoto, Texas, Miller was the No. 6-overall weakside defensive end in the 2007 class. He received offers from big schools like Florida, Oklahoma and Texas Tech, but he chose to accept a scholarship at Texas A&M.
The three-star recruits
Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
After playing his high school football in the Finneytown area of Cincinnati, Kuechly was regarded as just the No. 23-overall outside linebacker in the 2009 class. He received many Division 1 scholarship offers but eventually committed to play at Boston College.
Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
During his senior year in high school at Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif., Sherman played wide receiver, defensive back and he returned punts. He was the No. 61-overall defensive back in the 2006 class. He drew interest from several Division I schools including Colorado and Mississippi State before accepting a scholarship at Stanford.
The two-star recruits
J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Watt played both defensive end and tight end in high school, but he was only rated as a two-star recruit from Pewaukee, Wisc. He was the No. 224-overall defensive end in the 2007 class. He visited and received offers from Minnesota and Colorado, but he chose to commit to Central Michigan. He was a tight end in his first year there, but he didn’t see room for growth at the position. He opted to give up his scholarship, make the position change to defensive end and walk-on at Wisconsin.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Despite some impressive stats and a state championship during his senior season in high school, the 5-foot-11 Wilson not highly regraded coming out of high school in Richmond, Va. He was the No. 67-overall quarterback in the 2007 class. He received a full scholarship offer from Duke but instead opted to accept the same offer from North Carolina State.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Martin made the AP’s All-Pro first team for the first time in his career in 2015, but he was a bit of an unknown coming out of high school. He was the No. 226-overall running back in the 2007 class. He received interest from California and Oregon State, but he made the decision to commit to Boise State.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell played his high school ball in Groverport, Ohio. He was a three-year starter in high school, but only a two-star recruit coming out of high school. He was the No. 199-overall running back in the 2010 class. With limited scholarship offers, he accepted an offer to play at Michigan State.
Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders
Mack had dreams of earning a basketball scholarship before a patella-tendon injury during his sophomore year in high school changed his plans. He turned to football, but because he was a newcomer to the sport, he wasn’t regarded as a top recruit. He was the No. 114-overall outside linebacker in the 2009 class. The Fort Pierce, Fla. native accepted a Division I scholarship to play at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
The no-star recruits
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers received very little Division I interest after he finished high school in Chico, Calif. Rodgers went unranked in the 2002 class. Illinois was the only school who showed interest, and they only offered him an opportunity to compete for a scholarship as a walk-on. He instead played his first season after high school at Butte College, a junior college in Oroville, Calif. After a successful season, he looked to transfer to Division 1 and became a three-star recruit. He then committed to play at California.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Before Brown became one of the NFL’s elite wide receivers, he was an unknown during the college-recruiting process. Brown went unranked in the 2006 class coming out of high school in Miami, Fla., and eventually enrolled at North Carolina Tech. After one season playing quarterback there, Brown joined Central Michigan as a walk-on freshman.
Josh Norman, Carolina Panthers
Like Antonio Brown, Norman also went unranked in his 2007 class. He received no Division I scholarship offers, so he began taking college courses at Horry Georgetown Tech. At the time, he lived with his brother, Marrio, who had earned a full football scholarship at Coastal Carolina. The following year, Josh was offered a spot on Coastal Carolina as a walk-on, and after his first season there, he was offered a scholarship.
Dan Schneier covers the NFL for FOX Sports. You can find him on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL.